The central nervous system – CNScontrols body and mind functions, voluntary movements, including walking, and involuntary movements, specifically the breakdown of foods and waste removal. Studies have found associations between spinal problems and gastrointestinal-GI tract/stomach issues that include:
Difficulty controlling bowel movements
Treating the underlying cause through chiropractic, non-surgical spinal decompression, and health coaching can bring pain relief, realign/heal the spine and alleviate stomach issues.
Spinal Problems and Stomach Issues
The spinal cord sends nerve signals throughout the body, including to and from the digestive system. Two types of nerves control the digestive system, extrinsic and intrinsic.
Connect the digestive organs with the brain and spinal cord.
Release chemicals that contract or relax the digestive system muscles.
The nerves relay signals to speed up or slow down the food’s movement through the gut.
The intrinsic system can function independently and work without communication from the extrinsic nerves. However, the stomach and esophagus/food pipe depends on information from the extrinsic nerves. If there is injury, damage, or interference with the extrinsic nerve supply to the stomach, it can lead to stomach issues. Spinal cord injuries and compressed or herniated discs interrupt the communication between nerves/systems, which can lead to digestive and bowel problems, including:
Feeling full quickly after eating.
Difficulty moving waste through the colon or large intestine
Tenesmus – the sensation/feeling of having to have a bowel movement even though there is none.
Herniated disc/s usually occurs in the neck or low back spinal area. Symptoms include:
Pain spreads from the lower back through the buttocks, legs, and feet.
Pain spreads from the neck through the shoulders, arms, and hands.
Tingling or burning sensations
Chiropractic Spinal Decompression
Chiropractic decompression therapy stretches the spine and manipulates its position to take pressure off the nerves and spinal discs. The decompression process creates negative pressure in the discs that retract herniated or bulging discs, allowing oxygen, water, and other healing nutrients to enter the disc and throughout the spine. The spinal decompression will help alleviate the stomach issues. Consultation from a health coach/nutritionist will recommend a diet that will aid in the disc/s healing, which is anti-inflammatory and easily digestible until the stomach problems are fully resolved.
DRX Patient Testimonials
Browning, Kirsteen N, and R Alberto Travagli. “Central nervous system control of gastrointestinal motility and secretion and modulation of gastrointestinal functions.” Comprehensive Physiology vol. 4,4 (2014): 1339-68. doi:10.1002/cphy.c130055
Holmes, Gregory M, and Emily N Blanke. “Gastrointestinal dysfunction after spinal cord injury.” Experimental neurology vol. 320 (2019): 113009. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2019.113009
Lara, F J Pérez, et al. “Thoracic disk herniation, a not infrequent cause of chronic abdominal pain.” International surgery vol. 97,1 (2012): 27-33. doi:10.9738/CC98.1
Papadakos, Nikolaos, et al. “Thoracic disc prolapse presenting with abdominal pain: case report and review of the literature.” Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England vol. 91,5 (2009): W4-6. doi:10.1308/147870809X401038
There are different possible causes of abdominal pain and digestive problems. Sometimes a bulging disc is the cause. A bulging disc that is causing abdominal pain is rare but possible. When this happens, it’s usually a herniated disc in the upper back, known as the thoracic spine. When the disc bulges to the side, it can cause abdominal pain. One study found that half of the patients presenting with herniated discs also suffered from digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome.
Thoracic Disc Herniation
The thoracic spine is the region between the base of the neck and the low back. This section is surrounded and stabilized by the ribcage, reducing the risk of disc herniation. Most herniated disc/s occur in the low back or the neck because those areas with a lot of movement are less stable than the thoracic spine. But they do happen and can contribute and/or cause abdominal pain. This is usually accompanied by pain in the mid-back and the chest. Because this is rare, physicians don’t immediately think that a herniation is causing abdominal pain. This can lead to unnecessary and expensive tests to find the problem.
Lateral Disc Herniation
This is not the most common type of disc herniation. The type of herniation that causes pain in the abdomen is known as lateral disc herniation. This is when the disc bulges laterally/sideways. What happens is it can compress and irritate the nerve root. This is what can cause pain in the abdomen. Types of disc herniations include:
Most thoracic herniations are caused by trauma to the upper back. This can come from a:
They can also be caused by degenerative disc disease. If this happens, the discs can become calcified, which could require surgery.
Movements like reaching up to get something or twisting motions like putting on a seatbelt can cause the pain to worsen. Most thoracic herniations happen in young individuals brought on by trauma to the area. Women tend to be affected more by thoracic disc herniation that causes abdominal pain.
Herniated Disc and Bloating
Bloating often comes with digestive problems. A herniated discs can also cause bloating along with abdominal and back pain. However, they are not always related because bloating, and other digestive issues can cause back and abdominal pain. Bloating and pain typically go away after a bowel movement. But it is important to see a medical professional if the problem lasts more than a few days.
Gas and a Herniated Disc
In certain cases, a herniated disc can cause gas. This is rare, but evidence suggests that nerve compression in the spine can affect the digestive system. If back pain, abdominal pain, and digestive issues are presenting, seeking out treatment is recommended.
Chiropractors specialize in spinal care. The approach is to balance the entire body and heal the underlying issues. The nervous system travels through the spinal column. If injured or damaged, it can cause all kinds of issues. This includes abdominal pain and digestive problems. A chiropractor will:
Bring pain relief
Realign the spine
Balance the body
Recommend exercises and stretches
Offer nutritional recommendations
Recommend sleeping positions to prevent pain at night
They are different techniques to treat disc herniations. These include:
Detailed medical history
MRI, CT, or X-Rays
Ice and heat
A common and powerful trigger of binge eating is restrictive dieting. This type of diet is a common weight-loss method for short-term goals. This is because a highly controlled program of calorie intake makes it easier to prevent overeating. The problem is that this type of restriction is not sustainable. Most individuals can avoid certain foods for only so long. However, this is not the only reason for binge eating. Many individuals use food as an emotional suppressor. They overeat during:
Levels of high stress
Bouts of sadness
The brain and body are conditioned to crave certain and usually addictive foods. When individuals want to get their minds off of something, cravings can activate and become overpowering. Although it is not an addiction to alcohol or drugs, food addiction is still an addiction. Working through addictive behavior toward any substance will improve the quality of life. Overcoming food addiction promotes physical health benefits and improved mental health. Recognizing addictive behaviors when it comes to food is the first step.
Al-Khawaja, Darweesh O et al. “Surgical treatment of far lateral lumbar disc herniation: a safe and simple approach.” Journal of spine surgery (Hong Kong) vol. 2,1 (2016): 21-4. doi:10.21037/jss.2016.01.05
Lara, F J Pérez et al. “Thoracic disk herniation, a not infrequent cause of chronic abdominal pain.” International surgery vol. 97,1 (2012): 27-33. doi:10.9738/CC98.1
Papadakos, Nikolaos et al. “Thoracic disc prolapse presenting with abdominal pain: case report and review of the literature.” Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England vol. 91,5 (2009): W4-6. doi:10.1308/147870809X401038
Polivy, J et al. “Food restriction and binge eating: a study of former prisoners of war.” Journal of abnormal psychology vol. 103,2 (1994): 409-11. doi:10.1037//0021-843x.103.2.409
Stomach ache, acid reflux, gas, and other symptoms of gastric distress can be linked to spinal issues and misalignment. The spinal cord sends nerve signals to all parts of the body, specifically those affecting digestion functions. The lumbar spine/lower back includes the sacrum which is vital in terms of nerve function.
Various spinal cord issues could cause problems with the rest of the body. These include:
Misalignments/problems in the lower back can result in gastric symptoms like:
This is because this area of the spine includes sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves that are connected to the digestive system. Any problem with these systems can result in miscommunicated signals to the rest of the body. The wide-range effects that compressed nerves can have on the body, as well as, how the spine is affected by the obstruction of these nerves, can be detrimental.
Chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate and release the gastric distress are able to correlate their spine�s role in gut health. This along with an education on the central nervous system. A chiropractic approach can help as a long-term solution to gastric distress.
Every organ in the body functions by sending and receiving electrical impulses, transmitted through the nerves. These impulses direct the function of organs. If blocked or the signals are improperly/partially sent/received, various health issues can begin to present. For the gut, proper nerve signal transmission at full capacity is crucial. The stomach needs to be able to properly digest food while absorbing nutrients and preparing for waste removal. This is where gastric distress conditions begin like:
Irritable bowel syndrome – IBS
Gastroesophageal reflux disease – GERD
Abdominal pain syndrome – APS
Nerve conditions worsen with time if the health and function of the affected nerves are not restored. This could mean severe chronic symptoms and the possibility of permanent nerve damage.
Messed up nerve signals are usually pinched, blocked, or displaced. Most nerve bundles exit through the spine and are usually where a chiropractic exam will start. Through palpitation of the spine along with diagnostic imaging, a chiropractor can track down exactly where the nerve blockage/s are taking place.
The lower back and upper back are common areas to examine. This is because a majority of abdominal organ nerves branch out from these spinal segments. If spinal subluxations are present, more than likely they are affecting the function of these organs. Chiropractic will adjust the spine and reset/realign the spine to its proper form, allowing for proper blood circulation. Compressed nerves can also cause inflammation that could require more complex treatment.
Listening to the Body
If the gut is presenting with aches, and bloating after every meal, it could be indicating that something is wrong or off. Individuals cannot feel blocked nerve signals, but the gut can. Listen to it when it is alerting an issue or problem. We want to educate our patients on gut and spinal health. Chronic gastric distress can be corrected with chiropractic.
Chiropractic Pain Relief
Dr. Alex Jimenez�s Blog Post Disclaimer
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, and sensitive health issues and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate and support directly or indirectly our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation as to how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900. The provider(s) Licensed in Texas& New Mexico*
Spiegel, Brennan M R et al. �Understanding gastrointestinal distress: a framework for clinical practice.��The American journal of gastroenterology�vol. 106,3 (2011): 380-5. doi:10.1038/ajg.2010.383
Kehl, Amy S et al. �Relationship between the gut and the spine: a pilot study of first-degree relatives of patients with ankylosing spondylitis.��RMD open�vol. 3,2 e000437. 16 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1136/rmdopen-2017-000437
IFM's Find A Practitioner tool is the largest referral network in Functional Medicine, created to help patients locate Functional Medicine practitioners anywhere in the world. IFM Certified Practitioners are listed first in the search results, given their extensive education in Functional Medicine